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How mindfulness can help you reduce stress and land your dream job

Have you ever felt gripped by anxiety at the thought of writing another job application?

Or put off updating your resume for the hundredth time?

Looking for a job can be stressful at the best of times, but if you’re finding yourself easily distracted, procrastinating or feeling anxious, perhaps it’s time to try something new ­– or very, very old, as it were.

Derived from practices used in Buddhism for more than 2,000 years, the modern incarnation of mindfulness has swept the world in recent years.

Mindfulness is generally described as the practice of being in the present moment – on purpose, and free of judgement, rumination and worry.

If that sounds like new-age nonsense to you, consider this: research shows mindfulness is closely linked to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and that it boosts creative thinking, has a positive effect on anxiety and improves focus. The practice is also associated with a stronger immune system and a lowered risk of depression.

That’s also why mindfulness can be so useful in your job search. With practice, its stress-busting abilities can transform how you deal with writing numerous tailored applications, challenging job interviews and potential knock-backs.

So can practising mindfulness help you land your dream ethical job? Here are three tips to get you started on your journey:

1. Practice staying present in the moment

Easier said than done! When you’re looking for work, it can be easy to dwell on the past and fret about the future. But while doing so can help you learn from career mistakes and project into the future, many people go overboard in ruminating on what might have been or could possibly be. Mistaking these subjective thoughts for objective facts could cripple you into inaction – something you can work to alleviate by focusing on the present moment. Like any other skill, you can practice staying present and in the moment – and the more you practice, the easier it becomes, even when you’re in a seemingly stressful situation.

How to do it: Find a comfortable seat in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and tune into your breathing, focusing on and committing to the sensation. Acknowledge when your mind inevitably wanders, gently guiding your attention back to the physical sensation of breathing. Work your way up to sitting with this practice for seven to ten minutes.

2. Set an intention

It’s fair to say most people are familiar with the importance of setting goals, which is a particularly worthwhile pursuit for job-seekers. But have you ever set an intention?

While goals tend to focus on the future, intentions are rooted in the present. They help you concentrate on what motivates you, and keep you connected with your bigger picture. A solid intention can stop you from taking the wrong opportunity simply because it presents itself.

In setting an intention, you need to be clear about what you want in a job and how you’ll go about finding it. Did you aim to apply for four jobs by the end of the day but found yourself trawling social media after submitting just two? Setting an intention can help you recognise that you’ve drifted – and then guide you back to completing the other two applications.

How to do it: Find a quiet spot and think about what’s been motivating your job-search so far. When you think of your job search, what hopes, dreams, criticisms and fears surface? What inspires those hopes and fears? Is there anything coming up that you didn’t recognise before?

3. Let go of judgement about yourself

Mindfulness is impossible unless you notice and let go of judgement, something many people do a lot of when looking for a job.

Do you ever find yourself not bothering to apply for a great job because your inner self-critic says you’ll never get it? Mindfulness is about noticing that voice – and challenging it.

That’s not to say you should start applying for lofty executive positions if you have neither the experience nor qualifications. But the ability to discern between real and self-imposed limitations is all part of developing the self-awareness to know when you’re constraining yourself out of habit, not reality.

How to do it: Building on the previous two activities, take a few minutes to sit somewhere comfortable and notice your thoughts. What judgements about yourself come up? Pay attention to that inner voice, trying to notice which judgements are objective and which aren’t. Consider how the subjective judgements are limiting you. How does it feel to let go of those judgements and see yourself without them?

Mindfulness might just feel like another thing to add to that ever-growing ‘to-do’ list. But by practicing calmness and resilience in the face of a stressful job search, it could become one of the most valuable investments of your time as a job-seeker.

This post is based on an article originally published on Idealist Careers.

Would you consider practicing mindfulness to boost your job search? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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